NYC Health Officials Find New, Virulent HIV Strain

NYC Health Officials Find New, Virulent HIV Strain (Bloomberg)

New York City doctors have discovered a previously unseen strain of HIV, which appears to be resistant to three of the four types of anti-viral drugs that combat the disease, and progresses from infection to full-blown AIDS in two or three months, the health department said. “We’ve identified this strain of HIV that is difficult or impossible to treat and which appears to progress rapidly to AIDS,” said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. Frieden said the case, diagnosed in a man in his mid-40s who reported multiple male sex partners and unprotected anal sex — often while using the drug crystal methamphetamine — was “extremely concerning and a wake-up call.”

Antonio Urbina, medical director of HIV education and training at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, site one of Manhattan’s largest AIDS clinics, said at a news conference that the patient’s use of crystal methamphetamine shows that the drug “continues to play a significant role in facilitating the transmission of HIV.” The drug reduces peoples’ inhibitions and their likelihood of using condoms or other forms of safe sex, he said.

While drug resistance is increasingly common among patients who have been treated for HIV, cases of three-class antiretroviral-resistant HIV — or 3-DCR HIV — in newly diagnosed, previously untreated patients are extremely rare, and the combination of this pattern of drug resistance and rapid progression to AIDS may not have been seen previously, the Health Department said in a news release. The strain found in New York was “highly unusual,” said Ronald Valdiserri, 53, deputy director of the National Center for HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in an interview. “We’re talking about a single case, but clearly the fact that we are dealing with such broad resistance of drugs and the rapid clinical progression is quite alarming,” Valdiserri said.

Frieden said the one drug the HIV strain isn’t resistant to is Enfuvirtide, sold under the trade name Fuzeon, developed by Trimeris Inc. of Durham, North Carolina, and Roche Holding AG of Switzerland. The drug, which costs a patient an average $20,000, is the first in a class called fusion inhibitors that work by preventing HIV from infecting healthy cells. It requires a 20-minute mixing process and twice-daily injections, according to the Fuzeon Web site. The problem, Frieden and other physicians said, is that this drug is most effective when used in a “cocktail” with other retrovirus drugs such as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and protease inhibitors.

NPR, from which I was tipped to the story, didn’t mention that the patient in question had “unprotected anal sex” with “multiple male sex partners,” often while “using the drug crystal methamphetamine.” Given that the public has been widely educated about the pitfalls of such behavior for over two decades now, one presumes it isn’t epidemic. Still, the discovery of a new strain of this deadly virus that’s resistant to the current treatment regime is bad news. Whatever one thinks of its explanation for the origin of the human species, there is no dispute that natural selection takes place among viruses.

Update (2-15): NYT/IHT picks up the story.

A previously unknown strain of HIV that is highly resistant to virtually all known drugs and appears to lead to the rapid onset of AIDS was detected in a man last week, New York health officials said Friday. […] [T]he resistance comes in combination with its rapid transformation into AIDS. Each of those things has been seen before, but never together.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. At least the rapid progression into full blown AIDS is likely to limit the spread. Infected parties won’t spend years spreading it around before it becomes obvious that something is seriously wrong. This particular strain may prove to be too virulent for its own good and end up burning out in short order.

  2. jen says:

    Hmmm…this will get Dean Esmay really going.

  3. Lt Bell says:


    Pray for Rapture

  4. Dream on says:

    “Rapture” will be the day you get off this planet, with or without your ignorant, bigoted, shit-for-brains cohorts, you dumbfuck. Jesus may be about love, but you are all about ignorance and hatred.

  5. McGehee says:

    This particular strain may prove to be too virulent for its own good and end up burning out in short order.

    That’s my hope too. In recent years a trend has developed because of how long it took from being exposed to HIV before AIDS actually set in, of people ignoring the safety precautions known to decrease the chances of exposure — figuring, I suppose, that they’d still have years of living ahead of them before the suffering started.

    At the very least one would hope this new strain, if God forbid it should persist, will encourage people to reconsider such attitudes.

    As for Lt Dumbbell, he was being sarcastic. He may be a damn fool, but he’s not one of ours.